The tallest of all, the John Hancock Tower (now officially named 200 Clarendon Street, but good luck finding a local who’d call it that), closed its observation deck after 9/11.
And just before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prudential Tower—the skyline’s second-place holder for height—shut down its observatory and famed Top of the Hub restaurant, where many a proposal was proposed and many a seafood tower was toppled. The building’s owners had decided it was time to give the space a complete makeover.
More than 3 years and $180 million later, the result of that overhaul is opening to the public on the top three floors of the Pru on Thursday, June 15.
In place of the cramped and dated former observatory, the reimagined, 59,000-square-foot attraction, now called View Boston, features wraparound views of the city from huge floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as an open-air terrace, a bar, and a bistro. There are also several interactive exhibits, described (inevitably) as “immersive” and “experiential” in the promotional materials.
(Outdoor terrace at the Prudential Tower's View Boston observatory | Credit: Zac Thompson)
After an ear-popping elevator ride, the experience begins on the bright and spacious 52nd floor, where dazzling walls of glass show off Boston in all directions. You can spot the Charles River, Trinity Church, the tuning forks of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, Fenway Park, the giant Citgo sign, the Harbor Islands, you name it.
High-tech swiveling viewfinders with touch screens can fill you in on notable sights and neighborhoods in your line of vision. Small metal models of noteworthy landmarks are scattered throughout as well.
As the Boston Globe explains, the sculptures are “designed to be touched, so those with visibility impairments can feel and see” what the windows overlook.
(Metal models for experiencing the Boston skyline by touch at the Prudential Tower's View Boston observatory | Credit: Zac Thompson)
The 51st floor is where you’ll find the outdoor terrace and cocktail lounge. Continue down to the 50th floor to see exhibits such as a detailed model of the entire city onto which a light show is projected. Elsewhere, a panoramic film depicts a family exploring Bostonian highlights.
As you work your way through the observatory’s three floors, there are numerous places where you can scan a bar code on your ticket to learn more about the places you’re seeing from a distance. That’s an option on the viewfinders, for instance, and as you leave the panoramic theater, you can scan your ticket on screens showing sites featured in the film.
At the end of your visit, you can opt to have info about all the places that piqued your interest emailed to you in a handy itinerary. That feature feels like a thoughtful attempt to encourage visitors to experience Boston rather than just view it from on high.
View Boston’s general admission, which includes access to all three floors and all exhibits, starts at $34.99 for adults, $32.99 for seniors ages 65 and older, and $28.99 for kids ages 6 through 12. Kids ages 5 and younger get in free with adults who bought tickets. For higher prices, you can opt for upgraded tickets that come with stuff like priority lane entry and a small credit in the gift shop.
For more info or to make a reservation, go to ViewBoston.com.